Friday, November 30, 2012

Three Beautiful Ways to Gift

marthastewart.com

1. I like to be excited about the gifts I give people. This year I'm very excited about giving this to my son-in-law. He loves bacon (and food in general). I know, Bacon Jam? It sounds funky at first, but I think it's going to be good! Click here for recipe.
2. The other gift I worked on today, which I'm excited about, is a custom calendar for my mom. Shutterfly has a fun design site to create such projects. My mom will love to have photos of our family since she doesn't see us very often. She doesn't have a computer so we don't get to share all of our photos with her unless we print them. Click here for Shutterfly.
3. My last bit of Christmas shopping arrives via UPS or USPS. I love the wishlists my kids create on Amazon's website.  Amazon allows you to add items from other websites, which will link directly from your list. The lists remain year-round, so they're handy for birthdays or other occasions, too. Just look for the 'wish list' tab to the right of the 'cart' tab. Click here for Amazon.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No One Else Will Want It, Stylin', Now Appearing

1. Each time I walk Henri, I go past the Christmas Tree Farm. I've been scoping out the trees each time I go by and I have my heart set on a skinny one. It has lots of character. I hope the family will oblige.
2. She borrowed one of my scarves, one that I thought looked old ladyish and would never have chosen for her. Man, it looks great on her! I need to rethink that scarf...or let her keep it.
3. We rounded a curve in the road and gave an audible gasp! The moon rose huge and bright above a dark mountaintop. The man-in-the-moon's face looked chubby on a moon so big.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Simmering, Mulling, Shimmering

1. I've made a delicious pot of chili and a pan of corn muffins to leave on the back burner. It's a late night for everyone's dinner and this will sit and wait nicely for us.
2. I'm contemplating 'forgiveness' a lot lately. I come up with more questions than answers. Luckily, I have friends and Steve who will debate and ponder and humor me when I ask all of my, "what if's" and "why's". I might have to write more on this...
3. The daughter who isn't home much and stays shut in her room studying most of the time is super-excited about Christmas. It's not about the gifts, but the preparations and decorations. She says she wants to decorate the house so that when someone walks in, "Bam!", they'll see Christmas. Poor child, this is not how I operate. But I humor her and stay silent while she clears off two bookshelves for the Christmas village. (I was hoping to leave it boxed this year. What a scrooge I am! )

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Shopping, Fueling the Fueler, Beer and Grill

1. Tess and I shopped two small businesses today, in honor of "Support Small Business" day. (It was purely selfish motives, really) Photo USA for 35mm film and camera batteries for Tess and Main Street Primitives in Salem, VA for me. We did our part!
2. Steve chopped more wood to fuel the wood stove this winter and I made lunch to fuel him.
3. Tonight, we met Chelsea and Chad at The Tap Room in The River House. Steve wanted to try their beer on tap (over 30 to choose from!) and I wanted to enjoy a meal out. Between the five of us, we ordered chili verde, a hamburger, a turkeyburger, pork carnita, a grilled chicken sandwich and sweet potato fries. The place was hopping, but the service was good and we had fun. I found a couple of photos posted over here: The Pizza Fan.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Something Different To Do, Repeat, Brave Blossom


1. Wanting to do something special, yet wanting to steer clear of any crowds, we drove to scenic Lexington, Virginia where we browsed my kind of mall- antique malls! Once inside the doors, we scattered in different directions, hunting down our favorite things. Only one of us purchased, though. Tess found a 35mm Minolta camera with case, lens, and flash for $40. She's excited to experiment with film.
2. Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner. Who doesn't love that?!
3. A tiny, lone blossom on the crab apple tree fills my heart with tenderness.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

I'm thankful to have people in my life who make me laugh.
She's back there...
finding fun in ordinary things,
...and making it impossible to take a family photo.
1. There's that rooster crowing in the woods again. I haven't heard him in a while. I like his company in the early morning, when the stars are just beginning to fade.
 2. It was a beautiful, mild day. After dinner, we sat on the porch and relaxed in the sun. Chelsea opted to spread a blanket on the grass and took a nap there.

3. My family makes me laugh. Well, we all make each other laugh.
3a. We played a paper and pencil game similar to 'Gossip'. One story turned out so funny that when I woke in the middle of the night, it popped into my head and I started laughing all over again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Preparations, Comedienne, Back Atcha!


1. My mother taught me to always prepare dessert first, then work on the dinner. I have no idea where that came from, but that's how I do it. The day before Thanksgiving is traditionally my baking day, simply because it makes sense. I set pies on the hutch so they are out of the way and they look pretty there.
1.b. Pumpkin pie filling with cinnamon, ginger and cloves while it's being mixed in the bowl smells so good. I lift the bowl so Steve can smell it too. (He's washing the kitchen floor!)
2. Audrey is good at imitations. She stayed in character all afternoon and evening and had us laughing to tears during dinner.
3. The man doesn't know most of the people who drive by his tiny shack in the holler, but he gives each passerby a big wave and a smile. I give a big wave and smile in return.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tanner and Me, Clean Sweep, Upsatirs/ Downstairs


1. Eighty pounds of puppy romps through the house. He has no idea of his potential for destruction nor does he care in the least, which makes it so funny to watch.

 “I had never thought of Marley as any kind of model, but sitting there sipping my beer, I was aware that maybe he held the secret for a good life. Never slow down, never look back, live each day w/ adolescent verve and spunk and curiosity and playfulness.”
John Grogan, Marley & Me Illustrated Edition: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog

2. I give the brick steps at the back door a good sweeping. Free from leaves and clutter, it seems much more welcoming now.
3. She's gone to bed early with a cold. A few minutes later she texts me from upstairs: Would I please bring her a hot water bottle?


Monday, November 19, 2012

Funny Boy, My Pie Spilleth Over, Does Withdrawal Come With This?

1. He's hiding.

2. Apple pie filling has spilled over, into the oven and it smells good. My dad used to put an apple core or orange rind on top of the wood stove in our basement when he had a fire burning. They gave off a sweet, woody aroma.
3. Gluten free pros: One week down, five to go. I don't notice any difference except that I'm eating less because-
Cons: THERE'S NOTHING GLUTEN FREE TO EAT IN MY HOUSE, ARGHH!! What happens when you're lactose intolerant and gluten free? All you think about is pizza.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

New Lighting, I'll Do It Right Away, Everyone's Favorites

1. Steve installed the 'new' chandelier. I'm equally excited about all three of the ugly lights being removed. We're replacing the other two with recessed lights.

Before.

My personal electrician

After. Thanks B.!
2. Knowing someone who is so completely dependable that when they say they will do something right away, you know for a fact, they will.
3. A wonderful, shared pre-Thanksgiving meal. There was such an abundance of food, the ladies were shuffling dishes this way and that to make room for more as they kept on coming..

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Color Spectrum 2, Meeting Up, Where Have You Been?

1. Oh boy, do I ever have some new favorite music! Today I listened to The Dear Hunter Yellow, Green, and Blue CD from The Color Spectrum. (I actually positioned my car behind slow vehicles so my drive would last longer.) A totally different sound than yesterday's Black, Red, Orange CD, this features acoustic and steel guitars and beautiful melodies demonstrating Casey Crescenzo is a gifted and versatile artist.



It's hard to chose a favorite song from this CD.



2. We ladies have made a habit of going out to lunch or breakfast to celebrate whichever of us has a birthday that particular month. We've been doing this for a couple of years now and it's always fun. Everyone has busy schedules, but we manage to find time to meet for an hour or so, share a meal, laugh, celebrate and then scatter to the four winds to finish out our day.What's even funnier are the loonnng email chains where eight or ten ladies try to figure out a day and time that will work for all of us to meet. We almost have that down to a science, I think...
3. I am feeling so much better that it's made me realize how unwell I have actually been for the past nine months. I'm almost afraid to acknowledge it for fear that it will slip away. But I am so thankful to feel well and energetic that it brings me tears of gladness.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Breaking the Silence, New to Me, After a Long Drive

1. The fields are white with heavy frost and the sun hasn't risen to touch them yet. Night's stillness hangs in the air with silence like a vacuum. Suddenly, I hear the eerie cry of a fox in the woods. The cry is long and mournful and sounds almost like an owl. It echoes in the trees as it calls over and over again. It stops for a moment and the silence returns. To my surprise, the the call is returned from fields far away. Back and forth now, the foxes call to each other and I'm frozen in place, unable to go inside and warm myself for the beauty of it all.
2. I borrowed Tess' music for my drive today. It's the first time I've listened to The Dear Hunter and I must say, very cool! The percussion is fantastic and the tunes and harmonies weave interesting melodies between the heavy guitars. I've only listened to the Black, Red and Orange CD from The Color Spectrum, which Tess says is the heaviest. Tomorrow I'll listen to the Green, Blue and Yellow CD and see where that takes us!



3. Steve has come home a day early!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Beginnings could happen more than once, or in different ways. You could think you were starting something afresh, when actually what you were doing was carrying on as before."

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Decisions, Decisions, Oldie But Goodie, On Biscuits

1. Monday, I overheard Tess talking to herself at the computer. Someone had asked her to draw a turkey and she was contemplating, "Hmm, do I want to draw what everybody else would draw? Or, do I want to be an overachiever?" Today she asked me if I would bake an apple pie for her class's Thanksgiving party. I said I could do that, "Or!" I said with excitement, "I could bake each person their own apple-shaped turnover!" She turned to me and said, "Mom, do you want to make what everybody else would make or do you want to be an overachiever?" I'm still laughing... and I don't know the right answer.

2. Steve built these speakers around 1985. They are huge, unattractive things that have been a bone of contention between the two of us for years. They are plain ugly and I fuss over the fact that they take up so much room and there's no way to 'decorate' them or hide their utilitarian form. When the girls were toddlers, they all pushed their pudgy fingers into the papery centers of the speakers and dropped little toys down into the square holes. But, they still grace our living room for one reason only- they put out BIG sound.  These speakers still bring me loads of joy with the volume cranked up while bake and clean, as I did today. Once, Steve offered to remove them to the basement and I had to say no, leave them be.
3. Neighbor W. asked if we wanted him to bring us anything from Saunder's Brothers. I asked for fig preserves. He brought us that and much more. Thank you for kind neighbors!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I Am SO In Love Again, Home Time, One Woman's Trash...



1. Claire's friend at Poetic Lens took some beautiful photos of Jonathan at five days old. I love what photographers do with baby photos these days. May his countenance forever be this sweet and content.


2. An entire day to stay at home and catch up! Sort of. I didn't get to everything, but I did simmer down half the bag of those apples and canned them. It was very satisfying to have that done.
2b. I walked Henri, which was good for both of us. It's so freeing to just walk and think.
3. B. is renovating and is casting off the exact wrought iron chandelier that I was saving to buy for our kitchen! She dropped it off today and I am doing a happy dance.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Sunday Sermon

1. Four true and thought provoking points were made in the sermon this morning. The first two being:

#1. The earth is flawed and subject to catastrophe.
#2. Standing together and living in community is better than isolation.

In response to catastrophe, my inclination can be to withdraw into isolation. However, tonight it proved best to fight that urge and join with a community of friends to give a send-off to a dear family moving on to another state. We attended a bonfire on this mild evening, tables set up all around to accommodate the dishes carried in by each of us. A dark starry night, a warm, crackling fire, talk and laughter all around.
The last two, for your own consideration:

#3. There is a good place somewhere where vulnerability is no more.
#4. There must be a way to get there.

Jonathan


Friday, November 9, 2012

A Good Deal, Could I Buy Just the Boxes?, Mom is In the House

1. Ikenberrys sells these 50 pound bags of "horse apples" for $14. We called them "utilities" or "drops" in New York.  These are the apples culled out of their store bins that are bruised or imperfect. This mixed bag will be cooked down into applesauce. But not before I make a few pies and dumplings first. I feel like I've won a prize!
2. I visited the Clinique makeup counter at the department store today and browsed products that boast great results for aging skin. I enjoy handling all the tidy little boxes the makeup is packaged in more than actually owning the makeup.
3. Tess says, "This is why I like it when you're home. There's food!"

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thoughts From This Week Past

1. I traveled for this momentous occasion without a camera. (!) I sparingly used a borrowed computer  and shied away from TV and radio. Without these distractions, time slowed down briefly and I lost track of what day it was. It was all rather dreamlike, nothing at all like my usual days.
2. Day one: I wasn't accustomed to toddler talk and her mom interpreted some for me. Day two: I understood her and began to use some of her terminology. Day three: I became fluent in toddler talk and was puzzled as to how I didn't understand it previously. Day four: I interpreted for others.
3. Mari and Henri sit on the grass together, gazing in the same direction. She puts her arm companionably over his back.
4. She was my friend before her son married my daughter. When she arrived at our children's house for the new baby's birth, we had an evening to ourselves, babysitting Mari, our shared granddaughter. After Mari went to bed, we each poured a nightcap and caught up on the year since we last saw each other. When I had to leave the next day, it was reassuring to know my daughter was in good hands.
5. She says her "No's" in a sing-song way which make it impossible to be annoyed that the toddler is saying 'no' to me. "Mari, shall we go in now?" "♫ ♪ Nooo thaaannk yoou ♪ ♫"
6. Baby hair, baby mouth, baby hands, baby feet, baby ears, baby smile, baby knees, baby neck... precious, adorable boy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Here We Go! (In More Ways Than One)

1. Nervous energy is redirected into stocking daughter's freezer. Two loaves of cranberry bread, two chicken pot pies and two pans of baked spaghetti. I doubled everything.
2. Jonathan has entered this world weighing 9 pounds 13 ounces. Poor son-in-law, I kept having him repeat that weight to me over the phone. Then I said, "You're kidding me, right?"
( Daniel does not kid. +  He and Claire (5' 4") are neither tall nor large. = It was hard for me to comprehend.)
3. Mari and I are on our own! I see so much of her mother in her that it readily brings back those days when I was much younger with little ones of my own. When I ask her questions like, "Do you want to go potty?", or "Should we put this barrette in your hair?" she answers, "No thanks."
4. The elections matter to me. But, after today's personal events, I see it in a different perspective. I go to bed without knowing the results, yet having great peace.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Nest, Labor By Laughter?, I'll Be There

1. A little house finch abandoned her nest in the Derecho last July. I've given it a home on our shelf where it reminds me of the fragility of life.
2. The daily phone call from Daughter #1 begins with, "I'm just calling to say Hi!". She messaged me later, saying her husband is trying to help her go into labor with laughter.
3. Tomorrow I drive to Raleigh. The plan is that there will be a baby by Tuesday. It's difficult for me not to worry about my daughter; it's what mothers do. But I try to focus on thoughts of the new baby we already love and cannot wait to meet!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

It's a Ritual, Cross This One Off, My New Favorite Month

1. I make "To Do" lists for Steve because he likes to cross things off.
2. He re-purposed the posts from the vegetable garden into end-stakes for the raspberry bed. He added a good sized cross bar to each and now I can put my glass insulators along the top.
3. Aside from the danger of being shot by hunters, November is the perfect time of the year to walk in the woods. All the undergrowth has died back, the floor is carpeted with sweet smelling leaves and there are no gnats or bothersome bugs. The temperature is perfect, neither too hot nor too cold and I like to hear the bird calls echoing from the bare trees.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Roasted Beef, Mushroom and Barley Soup, Safely Home, Casting My Vote

Photo and recipe courtesy of Everyday Food
1. Today I made this delicious, hearty soup. It was quick to prepare, the meat was tender and the soup flavorful and satisfying. Roasting the ingredients really brought out the flavor. I think carrots would be an excellent addition next time.

Ingredients:
1 pound sirloin steak, cut into 1/2-inch pieces *Buy this tender cut since it's being roasted
1 pound cremini or button mushrooms, stems trimmed and caps halved
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water *I used vegetable broth
1/2 cup quick-cooking barley *I used regular pearl barley, soaked for 6 hours
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, toss together steak, mushrooms, shallots, and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and roast until beef and mushrooms are browned, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a medium pot and add broth and barley. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high, then reduce heat and simmer until barley is soft, about 12 minutes. To serve, season to taste with salt and pepper and top with parsley, if desired.

2. Steve is home! He's been away a lot lately.
3. I had the honor and privilege to vote today.